A new you for a new decade: What It Takes to Really Change
One of the universal desires of human beings is this desire to improve. It’s universal. We all want to grow. We all want to get better. We all want to improve. We all want to make something of our lives if we’re healthy. Need proof? We spend billions of dollars every year on projects and products and gizmos and gadgets that we think will improve our lives or make our lives better. But what does it take to really change?
Something To Talk About:
How does God want us to approach those areas that would benefit from change? Is there a way to find freedom and real change? The answer is yes. We have to understand how God can make a powerful difference in our lives. Consider the following mindset changes:
- My body is not my own, I belong to God: That’s the starting point. Change often requires a physical component. That is why the Bible tells us to commit our body to God. Why? Because your body affects your behavior. Your muscles affect your moods. Your muscles affect your motivation. Romans 12:1 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Notice it doesn’t say, offer your heart to Jesus. You hear that all the time: give your heart to Jesus. He doesn’t say, offer your spirit to Jesus. He doesn’t say, offer your soul to Jesus. He says to offer your body. Why? Because that’s all you’ve got. As long as you’re on this planet everything you do for God, with God, and in God, you’re going to do with your body for God. So the first thing you can do, the Bible says, out of reverence for God, is you can cleanse your body of the contaminants. That’s an act of worship.
- We will always move in the direction of our thoughts: Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” What he’s talking about is to stop focusing on what’s bad for you and start focusing on what’s good for you. You’ve got to stop focusing on your plan and start focusing on God’s plan. You’ve got to stop focusing on what everybody else wants you to do and start focusing on what God wants you to do. You’ve got to stop focusing on the negative and start focusing on the positive. You’ve got to transform by the renewing of your mind.
- To see real change, I have to get real with myself: How do you change who you really are? You start with a view about what your “true” self is and then go on to assess what changes need to be made. “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves…” (2 Corinthians 13:5) We are not perfect yet we walk around trying to impress people that we’ve got it all together. But God knows you don’t have it all together. In other words, honesty is the best policy and I must humbly assess my real state. I have to admit it when I don’t have it all together. I have to admit I have problems. Stop trying to think more highly of yourself. Just be honest, be authentic. Be real with yourself if you want real change.
- Love is stronger: Throughout the New Testament, we read that Jesus asks His followers to love one another, to help one another, and to carry one another’s burdens. Love is an action, not just a proclamation. And love is a change agent. Yet too often we reduce this simply to doing nice things for others, especially those things that are convenient and easy for us to do. Love can change the unchangeable. It is the only thing that can. It is the most powerful force in the world. Love invigorates. Love revitalizes. Love renews. Love refreshes. Love is the most powerful force in the universe because God is love. “For love is as strong as death, it’s jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.” (Song of Solomon 8:6)
- If I don’t lead my emotions, my emotions will lead me: Do you often feel unglued emotionally? Life is full of stress that can lead to overwhelming emotions such as fear and anger. Those feelings can well up inside your soul to the point where you struggle with emotional outbursts, which can significantly damage your relationships with God and other people. Gaining control over your emotions will help you effect real change. If we want to change we need to follow something much wiser and much more dependable than our emotions, the Word of God. The goal is to master those feelings, to manage your emotions rather than they manage you. Make praise and thanksgiving habits in your life. Even if you’ve developed a habit of losing control of your emotions, God can give you the self-control you need to manage them wisely and enjoy the healthy relationships He intends for you.
- I should never try to fight my battles alone: You don’t have to go to war to feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending battle. Maybe you’re fighting for hours at work while the bills keep piling up. Maybe you’re fighting for a marriage that feels like it’s falling apart. Or maybe you’re fighting to make a change that seems impossible to change. David knows that feeling well. David was fighting for his life. King Saul had set out to kill him, and he appeared to have everything on his side — weapons, warriors, and wealth were at his fingertips. But David had God on his side, and he knew God’s power was more than enough. In Psalm 18:2-3, David writes, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.” God did all of the work necessary to defeat Saul. The same God who fought for David is fighting for us today. We don’t have to fight our battles alone. “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:14)
- Do you think change is important? Why is change so difficult?
- What does Paul mean by us presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice? What does this look like in practice? Do you find this challenging?
- Paul commands believers: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2 NIV) Why does the mind need to be “renewed” in order to worship God and know His will? (See Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-10) How will you apply these verses to yourself? What changes are you going to make in your own life as a result of studying these verses?
- What is your responsibility for personal transformation?
- Real change starts with a real self-reflection: Agree or disagree and why? When is a good time to do an honest self-evaluation? What role does humility play in this process? How can you nurture humility in your life?
- God showed His love for us by sending His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. What insight does this give us into how God expects us to show love to others? What happens to our efforts to love each other if those efforts aren’t connected to Jesus’ love for us? Is change possible without love?
- Which emotions do you feel most comfortable expressing? Which do you feel least comfortable expressing? What changes in either category need to be changed?
- What battles are you fighting on your own that you need to hand over to God? Is there any area of your life where you’re asking for God’s strength but still fighting for yourself? What do you need to start doing or stop doing this week to trust God with the battles you’re facing?
- What changes would you like to make in your life? What are the obstacles to making those changes?
Take one thing home with you:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ promises a changed heart. But so many of us are stuck. We’re trapped by repetitive behaviors. Change is usually a process, not an event. When the Bible talks about the gift of a new heart, it promises a heart that is capable of being changed. Lasting change is possible.